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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 18:10 GMT
US soldiers killed by B-52 bomb
Fatal mistake: a B-52 bombed the wrong side
The number of American servicemen killed when an American B-52 aircraft accidentally bombed a US special forces unit in Afghanistan has risen to three.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said one of the injured soldiers died while he was flown out of the area together with 19 other wounded.

US Central Command said five Afghan anti-Taleban fighters had also been killed when the 900-kilogram (2,000-pound) smart bomb was dropped north of the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar.

US Joint Chief of Staff John Stufflebeem told reporters that the bomb dropped about 100m from the US troops who were under heavy fire from Taleban forces at the time.

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into the incident.

The Pashtun leader named as the head of Afghanistan's interim administration, Hamid Karzai, was lightly injured by the blast, US officials say.

He made no mention of the incident in interviews with the BBC.

US Marines near Kandahar
US Marines are providing back-up to anti-Taleban forces

The raid happened about 0530GMT on Wednesday after US special forces called in air support.

It is not yet clear whether the bomb's satellite guidance system failed, or whether it was given the wrong co-ordinates.

US forces have been providing support for Afghan fighters trying to dislodge the Taleban from their remaining stronghold of Kandahar.

Surrender talks

It was the worst friendly fire incident involving American troops since the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan began on 7 October - in response to the 11 September suicide attacks in the United States.

Five Americans were hurt when a similar weapon went astray last month in northern Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Pentagon officials confirmed that a member of US special forces had been shot and injured near Kandahar. His condition is reported to be stable.

Negotiations have resumed on a peaceful transfer of power in Kandahar.

Mr Karzai says he has had talks with a high-ranking Taleban delegation.

Talks had been going on for several days - but Mr Karzai said this was the most senior Taleban delegation so far.

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has accused the Taleban of using Kandahar's civilian population as "human shields".

"The situation in Kandahar is complicated," he told reporters. "It's not easy, but one thing is clear: The Taleban and al-Qaeda will be driven from Kandahar."

Taleban defiance

Mr Karzai's brother, Ahmad Karzai, said the Taleban had repulsed an attack on Kandahar airport by Pashtun tribesmen.

Northern Alliance fighter displays reward notice for Bin Laden
Hundreds of fighters are reportedly heading for the Tora Bora cave complex
A spokesman for the tribesmen, loyal to former Kandahar governor Gul Agha, said they had withdrawn so that the US could continue to bomb the area.

"People like Gul Agha wouldn't be a problem for us" if it were not for the air strikes, said Mullah Qasim, a Taleban commander south of Kandahar.

"We could push him back not in days, but hours."

Cave advance

In the east of the country, anti-Taleban forces have advanced towards the caves in the Tora Bora mountains, where Osama Bin Laden - accused of masterminding the 11 September attacks on the United States - is thought to be hiding.

Map showing Tora Bora
Hundreds of fighters set out from the town of Jalalabad on Tuesday, intent on reaching the area around Tora Bora, about 55 kilometres (35 miles) to the south.

One commander said they had met no opposition.

"Bombing continues," Hazrat Ali, in Jalalabad, told Reuters. "We have taken some areas which they [Bin Laden's men] left around Tora Bora. They pulled out from these areas without a fight."

Part of the cave complex is now reportedly held by anti-Taleban forces.

Mr Ali said everything was now being put in place for a final assault, but warned that the attack was being delayed while his troops ensured that they were not inadvertently hit by US air strikes.

"Yesterday, American planes were about to bomb civilians and our people and we want to make sure that they can identify our men, " Mr Ali said.

He added that US air strikes had killed at least 12 members of Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in or around Tora Bora in the last two days.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur in Washington
"Officials here are warning there may be more US casualties"
See also:

16 Oct 01 | Americas
Why bombing can go wrong
04 Dec 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'defectors' in Kandahar appeal
02 Dec 01 | South Asia
Taleban told 'surrender or die'
03 Dec 01 | South Asia
America's home-grown Taleban fighter
28 Nov 01 | South Asia
Hunt hots up for Bin Laden
03 Dec 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghan refugee misery
05 Dec 01 | Americas
US shocked by American Taleban
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